I met Susan Holt Kralovansky though the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge. A talented author and a fiber artist, Susie is a master at creating hilarious stories by reimagining old favorites. Her books are imaginative, funny and make me laugh out loud. Her latest book, Twelve Cowboys Ropin’, was released by Pelican Publishing Company earlier this month.
Antoinette de Alteriis is Director of Promotions at Pelican Publishing Company, a medium-sized, independent, family-owned business. Pelican is the largest independent trade book publisher in the American South, with a focus on regional titles no matter what the region. Their top two categories are cookbooks and children’s picture books, with military history a close third.
Liz LeSavoy: Congratulations on the publication of your book, Twelve Cowboys Ropin’. Susie, what inspires you?
Susan Holt Kralovansky: Kids inspire me. Whether it’s my own children, my nieces and nephews, or the children at school visits – I love to hear their opinions, their ideas, and their jokes.
LL: You’ve both authored and illustrated Twelve Cowboys Ropin’. How did you come up with the idea of reworking an old favorite into a new and zany retelling? Can you tell us a little about the book’s journey from concept to publication?
SHK: I was trying to come up with a way to teach Texas symbols to my PreK students. I also happened to be working on a fiber art project, designing a tree. When I realized my tree was turning into a pecan tree, all I had to add was a mockingbird and I had the first illustration for my story. In the first drafts, I merely listed the symbols, and that was pretty boring. I always get my best ideas as I drift off to sleep. I happened to be mentally listing the symbols I wanted to use – rather than sleeping – and the tune to Twelve Days of Christmas popped into my head.
LL: Antoinette, you’ve also published Susie’s book, There Was A Tall Texan Who Swallowed A Flea. What attracted Pelican to Susie’s books?
Antoinette de Alteriis: Several things, actually. Her ability to take a traditional poem or folk story and give it a regional twist to make it fresh and new is definitely a wonderful skill for an author. She also understands how to incorporate educational elements into the story. We were quite excited with this new project as Susie actually did all of the illustrations as well. Her fiber collages are delightful and the in-process photos she sent along were a hoot! We included one with her cat in our promotions.
LL: Can you provide any insight into the editorial process?
AdA: My involvement in that process is limited to dust jacket copy and art reviews. I write the copy based on materials from the author and conversations we’ve had. Since I’ve met Susie personally and we’re both Texas gals, I really enjoyed giving folks a glimpse of her sparkling personality. As part of my involvement, our team reviews the art at different stages as it goes through our production department. We use our knowledge of the book market trends, our in-house standards, and personal taste to focus the art if need be or suggest to the book’s editor any changes we think make the book more appealing. Much of the time, our biggest role is to act as an advocate for the author during the pre-publication process to both internal and external clients.
LL: Susie, you’ve also authored two non-fiction book series. Do you have a preference, fiction vs. non-fiction?
SHK: I love writing both. I try to time it so I have a nonfiction project – which is time consuming and intense. When that is finished, I am more than ready to move to fiction, which starts out feeling like a nice vacation, but is actually also time consuming and intense.
LL: Antoinette, what kind of books is Pelican actively seeking? What is Pelican not interested in?
AdA: We welcome cookbooks, children’s fiction and non-fiction fitting Common Core categories, middle reader and young adult books, and books of regional interest in history. We do not publish books with excessive violence or profanity and we have chosen not to publish adult fiction with a few very regional exceptions. So many other publishers focus on those categories and we prefer to emphasize what we do best.
LL: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
AdA: Send us your idea! Don’t wait to be finished with a manuscript that might not work for us at all. Look at our website or on Amazon to see what kind of books we have published in the past. Many of our books are award winners or Accelerated Readers – take a look at those too. Authors can email me with a query to see if we might be interested and I can really guide them to a formal submission. Children’s picture books take about 18 months from acceptance to publication and, in some cases, as much as two years.
SHK: I have three pieces of advice:
Read, read, read, read, and read some more.
Save everything you’ve written – even if you think it stinks.
Don’t give up!
Susan Holt Kralovansky, a Texan by choice, spent many years as a children’s educator and librarian. She now enjoys life as a full time author, a fiber artist, a wife, and mother to two grown children.
Antoinette de Alteriis has a broad range of responsibilities as Pelican Publishing’s Director of Promotions, including many of the tasks that an editor and publicist would fulfill in larger houses. She also holds a place on their editorial board recommending titles for publication.